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Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters Hardcover – December 2, 2011


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Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters + Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor + Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (December 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231159102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231159104
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Neurogastronomy is a personal yet magisterial account of the new brain-based approach to flavor perception. Gordon M. Shepherd's panoramic view of science, culture, and behavior is that of a true pioneer of the chemical senses.

(Avery Gilbert, Author of What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life)

Cooking? It is first love, then art, then technique. Chefs and food lovers alike can benefit from a better appreciation of the phenomena at play throughout the culinary process, from the field to the fork and beyond. This is why flavor is so important, and why Gordon M. Shepherd's well-named Neurogastronomy is such a welcome addition to the literature.

(Hervé This, author of Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor)

Those who make the effort will be rewarded: they'll never look at eating the same way again.

(Library Journal)

Shepherd makes an excellent case for neurogastronomy as an important cross-disciplinary field that is likely to motivate a variety of imperatives for our health and well-being.

(Chris Loss Nature)

Although written for lay readers, this excellent summary of everything people currently know about flavor perception must be considered the latest and most valuable review of research on the chemical senses.

(Choice 1900-01-00)

Stimulating and informing.

(Israel Rosenfeld and Edward B. Ziff New York Review of Books)

A work that has the potential for breaking new ground and developing a whole new direction of study.

(Yum.fi)

Review

Neurogastronomy is a path-breaking account of flavor from how we perceive it to how it affects society. Gordon M. Shepherd's explanation of our food preferences is a tour of the intellectual senses and a model of brain science.

(Richard Wrangham, Harvard University, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By I. Darren on December 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What are flavours, how are they created, how do they impact us and does it matter? These are the key questions addressed by neuroscientist Gordon M. Shepherd in this quite unusual, interesting book.

At first glance you may feel this is a fairly typical academic tome, full of top-notch information but barely accessible to the average reader. In this case you would be mistaken. Here the author has managed to create a book that is both accessible but not "dumbed down". You don't need a science degree to enjoy this book but, of course, should you be using it in the course of study you will equally find it of value.

Within this book the author seeks to create a new scientific field of study and understanding - neurogastronomy - and debunk the belief that the sense of smell diminished during human evolution. Taking an opposing view, Shepherd claims that our sense of flavour is inherently stronger than previously imagined. The basics of smell are covered from its interaction in the body as well as the "physical mechanics" of how a smell is transformed or processed into a flavour. This might turn a lot of conventional thinking on its head as we are led to believe, or think, that vanilla surely has the same taste to man as it might have to an animal. Once you start reading about this subject and thinking about it, the potential seems almost limitless. Society generally accepts that dogs have a great sense of smell and it appears to be more acute than humans. There are reasons for that. Yet how many people really know that there are many structural, physiological differences. Both noses smell things. Both brains process things, yet the processing "algorithm", for want of a better word, is different. There must be reasons for this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nathan White on January 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
After the decent introduction this book plummets into the black hole of bad science writing. Nothing can save it because Shepherd doesn't really have anything new or cohesive to say about psychology and flavor. Lots of big names are tossed around (McGee, Beauchamp, Wrangham, Sclafani, etc.), but this just makes him and his research feel shallow. A quick look at the puny bibliography shows how little effort Shepherd put into the book.
Strangely, reviewers haven't commented on the bad writing, but they have said the book is "a dense read." This didn't turn me off from the book because I don't mind dense reads if the material is necessarily dense. But this book is needlessly dense. Here's a quick example of a sentence:

"Just as the muscles of the nostril manipulate the inhalation of air, so are they coordinated to direct the air streams into the snout." (23)

What? Why is this written as a parallel sentence? Instead of nostril muscles "manipulating the inhalation of air," can they just breathe in or sniff instead? Are they "coordinated to direct the air streams," or do they just direct the air streams? The book is made up of these sentences, and together with the name dropping, the result is a rambling 200-page lecture given by a pretentious Yale professor. Even more pretentious than Herve This, because although both authors baptize a new field, at least This was French and poorly translated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Connoley on March 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a molecular gastronomy geared chef and read this book to get new insights into ways to manipulate my diners' experiences. I was not disappointed. Shepherd does an excellent job of walking you through each step and train of thought that ultimately gets us to flavor, and yes, it is repetitive as Shepherd writes as I can only assume he teaches classes (start off with a summary, give new material, end with summary), but that repetition was useful for me as a practitioner trying to chew my way through very dense matter. Even some of the most basic knowledge has changed the way I now cook - for example, I questioned the role of oil based flavors v. water based flavors in extending flavor in my customers as they exhale after each bite.

It is not a light read, and certainly not a read for someone with just a passing interest, but for people who want a deep understanding of the interaction between brain, body and food, this certainly will satiate your thirst for the subject.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Westmoreland on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This has solid information in a text that is comprehendable to the non scientist reader. It would have been useful if the author had also included the relevent neurotransmitters in the various pathways examined. Neuroanatomical structures are defined and reasonably well labeled, although the few diagrams are very basic.
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By AntDina on September 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very scientific. Very thorough. Might be a bit too nerdy for most people. Definitely written for the neuroscience freak who likes food. For people that curious to know why things work. What is a flavor image. It won't prepare you to cook any differently. It won't help you to win any culinary awards. What it will do, is provide a solid appreciation for the profound miracle that occurs when the perfect bite hits your tongue.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James on October 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought this book would have applicable advice, technique and method. This is really a book on olfaction and the neurological reaction to different stimuli. After reading this book if feel I have only learned vocabulary. Although it is drawn out over 27 chapters, this book doesn't cover much that is not rudimentarily understood by watching a toddler plug there nose while eating brussel sprouts. The author is constantly referencing other chapters of this book when a simple one or two line explanation would suffice. He is also not shy on shamelessly mentioning even the smallest role in other scientists studies. Personally, I feel this book could have been a quarter the length and maintained the same amount of pertinent information.
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